Day By Day

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lileks on the Guthrie


James Lileks has a wonderful little critique of the "International Style" of architecture as exemplified by the new Guthrie theatre in Minneapolis.

Here's the part I liked best:

[W]hat annoys me about the thing, really – aside from its inscrutable fa├žade, ham-fisted massing, coy little smokestack marquees and shuttlecraft bridge. This is where the city began: the waterfront, the falls, the mills. Washington Avenue, now in the midst of a remarkable rebirth, has a mix of old and new, but the new knows enough to defer to the old concrete giants, the stone-walled warehouses, the tumbled ruins. The old world was hand-made, brick by brick. It’s possible all the old mills and warehouses would have been made of blue glass if they’d had enough of the stuff. But would it have been too much to ask of the architect to make the Guthrie looked like it belonged on this ancient plot?

And that’s my problem, of course. I have quaint notions about architecture. Context may not be king, but it’s not the king’s fool, either. Symmetry keeps a building from flying apart into a heaped-up mess, and helps the brain make sense of what it’s seeing. The occasional dose of historicity – and I don’t mean publicity photos etched into the glass like trapped ghosts – binds a building to the era that preceded its conception.

Read the whole thing here.

Check it out, and learn something about how to "read" a building, even one so vacuous and nondescript as the New Guthrie.

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